A MOUNTAIN bike rider from the roof of the world believes the Tweed Valley more than rivals the Himalayas.

Teenager Chris Keeling arrived in the Borders during the summer from his native Nepal.

Having grown up in the shadow of Everest the 17-year-old, who won his country's national championships two years ago, signed up to Borders College's Downhill programme.

And he admits he is already benefiting from riding the trails around Glentress and Innerleithen.

Chris, who is living at the halls of residence in Galashiels, told us: "My technique has improved and I am a lot stronger.

"The trails here are different from what I am used to in Nepal - they are better and much more technical.

"This is a great place to ride a bike."

Chris, whose father is English and mother is Nepalese, grew up in the capital Kathmandu.

And he began riding bikes as a four year.

Mountain bike trails around the Shivapuri National Park, Lakuri Bhanjyang and Nagarkot are slowly becoming popular.

But the sport is a long way behind the standard Chris has experienced in the Scottish Borders.

Under the tutelage of Rab Wardell and Andy Barlow, as well as strength training from Kenny Johnstone, the A-level student is quickly catching up with some of College classmates.

Chris, who finished eighth in the British Enduro Series event at Eastridge in August, continued: "I had never been inside a gym before I came to Galashiels. I'm enjoying the gym work and I feel a lot more powerful because of it.

"The coaches have helped me work on different parts of my riding and we analyse everything.

"I have only signed up to the course for one year but I know I will benefit from what I learn here."

Chris's parents are flying into the UK this week for a family Christmas in Manchester.

And following his graduation from Borders College he hopes to resume his academic studies.

He added: "My father is from England so we used to come to the UK every year for a two-week holiday.

"We will all be meeting up at my aunt's for Christmas and then I'll be back on my bike in the Borders for the new year.

"I want to take part in next year's British Enduro Series and I know I will have to keep working hard if I am to finish in the top three."